Mee Memorial Healthcare System Rena Salamacha
Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

When a person is in the hospital, their relationship with food takes on a new significance. It becomes a source of nourishment not just for the body but also for the spirit. A thoughtfully prepared meal can offer solace and provide a sense of normalcy in an otherwise challenging situation.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the recovery process for patients. A well-balanced diet tailored to individual medical needs promotes healing. Hospitals that prioritize the quality of their food and nutrition services contribute significantly to the well-being of their patients.

Here at Mee Memorial, Chef Matt, our Nutrition Services Manager, takes this principle to heart. He understands that in a healthcare environment, the power of good food emerges as a beacon of comfort and healing for patients. Beyond meeting dietary requirements, a well-crafted meal holds the potential to impact a patient’s physical recovery, emotional health and overall hospital experience.

The social impact of mealtimes during a hospital stay cannot be ignored. Chef Matt regularly plans and prepares special candlelight dinners for our residents. These occasions transform mealtimes into memorable events where residents and visitors can gather, enjoy good food and build relationships.  

Chef Matt and other caring team members also plan regular cooking demonstrations for residents. These vary from traditional specialties to international dishes from countries around the world. This allows residents to experience the sights, scents, and sounds of a home-cooked meal and the opportunity to try a wide variety of new foods. Initiatives such as these enrich the patient experience and provide a more supportive and nurturing healing environment.

In addition to preparing food for patients and residents, the Mee Memorial nutrition team cares for the well-being of employees, providers and visitors. Cafe Olivia, located in the main hospital corridor, has initiated a Mindful Mondays program with nutritious breakfast, soup, and lunch options that are both delicious and healthful. Feel free to stop by and try it for yourself. The cafe is open to everyone.

Later in the year, visit us at the Mee Memorial booth at the Salinas Valley Fair. Chef Matt and his team usually attend for a few hours to share delicious and nutritious food samples with fairgoers.

Another area of Matt’s work is our Senior Nutrition Program. In partnership with the Monterey County Department of Social Services and sponsored by the Monterey County Area Agency on Aging Assistance, this meal service helps seniors and their caregivers stay healthy. 

The program is offered at two South Monterey County locations: the Leo Meyer Senior Center in King City (Monday through Friday at noon) and the Los Ositos Community Center in Greenfield (Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m.). Reservations for this program are required, and applications can be picked up at one of the centers or downloaded from our website: meememorial.com/our-services/senior-nutrition-program/.

Recognizing the importance of good food in healthcare is a step toward creating a more compassionate, balanced, and patient-centered experience where food can become an ally of healing.

Our organization-wide mission at Mee Memorial is to provide patient-centered health care of the highest quality. This means carefully considering all aspects of the patient’s experience. Ensuring that patients have access to comforting and delicious food is part of this goal and is an important aspect of the care we provide.

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CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

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